GEAR & TECH

This is the Russian version of the B-1 Lancer

While the B-1B Lancer has been one of two mainstays in the U.S. Air Force inventory of strategic bombers, Russia has a bigger bomber than the mighty Lancer.


This plane is the Tupelov Tu-160 Blackjack.

The Blackjack was intended to fill the same role as the B-1B – a long-range supersonic low-altitude penetrator. Russia had earlier developed the Tu-22M/Tu-26 Backfire as a supersonic bomber, but the Backfire was plagued by short range, and was more of a medium bomber along the lines of the FB-111A than a true strategic bomber.

Russian Tupolev Tu-160 bombers. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Alan Wilson.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Tu-160 has a top speed of 1,243 miles per hour, and a range of just under 8,700 miles. It can carry up to 12 AS-16 Kickback surface-to-air missiles, 6 AS-15 Kent air-launched cruise missiles, or up to 88,000 pounds of bombs. The plane made its combat debut during Russian operations in support of the regime of Bashir al-Assad in Syria.

Only 34 Blackjacks were built, counting the prototypes. At the end of the Cold War, production ended for a while. The bombers had been based in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, they were divided between Russia and Ukraine. The Ukrainians then sold eight airframes back to Russia, while 11 others were scrapped under the Nunn-Lugar disarmament program.

3-view graphic of the Tu-160. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Tu-160 achieved full operating capability in 2005. Currently, 16 of these planes are in service, as compare to roughly 60 B-1B Lancers. The Russians announced plans to re-open the production line for this powerful weapon according to a 2015 report by Flight Global, with plans to build up to 50 airframes.

You can see a video about this Russian bomber below.